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What Does It Mean to Be A Friend of Sinners: An Interview with Rich Wilkerson Jr.

Rich Wilkerson Jr.What does it mean when the Bible describes Jesus as the friend of sinners? And what are the implications of that for those who follow Jesus?

Bible Gateway interviewed Rich Wilkerson Jr. (@richwilkersonjr) about his book, Friend of Sinners: Why Jesus Cares More About Relationship Than Perfection (Thomas Nelson, 2018).

What were the implications to Jesus being called the “friend of sinners”?

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Rich Wilkerson Jr.: People were implying that Jesus was in the wrong place at the wrong time; that he was doing something that wasn’t right. However, when they called Jesus the “friend of sinners” they were actually declaring his mission. That’s why Jesus came; he came for relationship with everyone—with sinners.

How do Christians try to correct people before they connect with people and why do you say that’s wrong?

Rich Wilkerson Jr.: Anytime we start with people’s behavior before we start with relationship we’re headed in the wrong direction. Often times people view church, God, and Jesus as a list of rules, rather than an invitation for relationship. The model of Jesus is that he would find a connection to it: he would speak to your pain, speak to your hurt, he would befriend you, he would invite you to dinner, he would go to your house. And it was out of relationship that he would then speak the truth. The Bible says that Jesus came in grace and truth, but may we first understand that grace comes first; truth comes second.

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What was the most important message Jesus communicated?

Rich Wilkerson Jr.: The most important message that Jesus communicated was, I believe, John 3:16, that “God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” Jesus was communicating that God loves the community, that God loves the world. The world is full of broken, hurting people; the world is full of sinners. But Jesus was being direct to say I came for sinners; I came because I love you; I came to save you.

What stories in the Bible demonstrate how Jesus was a friend of sinners?

Rich Wilkerson Jr.: There are many stories in the Bible that show Jesus was a friend of sinners. Luke chapter 19—as he meets Zacchaeus, the tax collector—he goes to his house, and has a meal. One of his disciples, Matthew, also known as Levi, was another tax collector. Jesus went to the party with the tax collectors. It was there the Pharisees criticized him and said, “what is he doing?” Jesus replied, “I didn’t come for the healthy, I came for the sick.” Story after story, Jesus is with sinners.

Why is it difficult for people to be the kind of friend that Jesus was to others?

Rich Wilkerson Jr.: It’s difficult for us because, down deep, we want to control people; we want people to get what they deserve. Yet, Jesus—the only one who was without sin—he doesn’t offer us the law, condemnation, an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth. Instead, Jesus offers grace and Jesus gives mercy. And it’s difficult for us to grant mercy and for us to give grace.

How do we underestimate Jesus and what is the result of that?

Rich Wilkerson Jr.: I think many times we think Jesus just came to tell us how to live better on earth. But when we see Jesus only from that viewpoint, we’re turning him into a life coach, or we’re turning him into a leadership guru. But he’s God, not just a man. He’s the God Man, and he came to save us and offer us eternity. When we take his lessons and his teaching and all we think about them are good principles, then we underestimate all he came to do in our lives.

How do daily pressures get in the way of being the kind of friend Jesus wants us to be?

Rich Wilkerson Jr.: I think, many times we get too focused on ourselves that we forget about God and we forget about other people. If you’re only focused on yourself, you’ll never be able to serve others. Jesus came to be the greatest servant of all. We’re called to serve one another and love one another. And the more I fall in love with Jesus, the more it makes me want to love other people. If you love Jesus, show it to someone else.

How risky is it for Christians today to be called the “friend of sinners” and should they care?

Rich Wilkerson Jr.: I think it’s risky because religion runs rampant. Religion is all about what we must do, and it’s about controlling. A relationship with God is all about that Jesus has done all the work. And so, when we start behaving like Jesus by loving our fellow man, by being the guest of sinners and the friend of sinners, religious people will always criticize; religious people will always get upset; religious people will always say something. I think the risk is more than worth it, and no, I do not believe that we should care. I think we should live for the audience of one: his name is Jesus.

What do you mean when you write about being “comfortably uncomfortable”?

Rich Wilkerson Jr.: I think as Christians, we must understand that once we’ve been filled by God with his love, we’re called to be spilled out for God and show his love. And the only way we’re going to do this is to live outside of our comfort zone.

The more you follow Jesus, the more you realize he came and comforted me. Now I’m called to be uncomfortable for him. God comforts me, and then I get uncomfortable for him. The more you mature in the Lord, the more you realize that reaching out to people, it can be uncomfortable. But as Christians and as followers of Jesus, we have to learn to be comfortable being uncomfortable.

What is a favorite Bible passage of yours and why?

Rich Wilkerson Jr.: I love that the Bible says in Romans, “while we were yet sinners, Christ died for the ungodly.” I love the fact that before I ever knew about Jesus—before I ever called him Lord and Savior—he had already paid the price, because his love for me cannot be dictated on my love for him. He loves me because he is love.

What are your thoughts about Bible Gateway and the Bible Gateway App?

Rich Wilkerson Jr.: I’m so thankful for Bible Gateway. I use the app, I use the website: I find verses there often, I use it for my sermon prep. I think it’s such an incredible resource! I’m so thankful for it!

Is there anything else you’d like to say?

Rich Wilkerson Jr.: I really believe in this project. I really believe in this message. I really want people to meet the God that came for us; the God who loves us. He’s the God that’s close to the broken-hearted; he’s the friend of sinners. And once we’ve met the friend of sinners, we too are called to be friends of sinners.

Friend of Sinners: Why Jesus Cares More About Relationship Than Perfection is published by HarperCollins Christian Publishing, Inc., the parent company of Bible Gateway.

Bio: Rich Wilkerson Jr. and his wife, DawnCher&eacute, pastor VOUS Church, a meeting place of faith, creativity, and diversity in Miami, Florida. Every June, they also host thousands of young adults at the annual VOUS Conference in South Beach. He is the author of Friend of Sinners: Why Jesus Cares More About Relationship Than Perfection and Sandcastle Kings: Meeting Jesus in a Spiritually Bankrupt World, and is an internationally recognized speaker who has logged over two million air miles preaching the gospel around the globe.

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25 Journeys of the Bible

25 Journeys of the Bible from Bible GatewayFollowing the journeys of God’s people throughout Scripture can provide us with a fuller picture of the intricacy of his plan for our salvation. It can also deepen our trust in a Creator and Protector whose understanding of time is not our own understanding. As you read through this series of 25 journeys throughout the Bible (to mark Bible Gateway’s 25th anniversary), may our prayer be that we appreciate God’s timing as it fulfills his plan instead of our own short-sighted scurrying.

1. In Genesis 11:1-9, Noah’s descendants migrate from Mount Ararat to Babel:

Now the whole world had one language and a common speech. As people moved eastward, they found a plain in Shinar and settled there…But the Lord came down to see the city and the tower the people were building…[and] the Lord scattered them from there over all the earth, and they stopped building the city…

2. In Genesis 12:1-9, Abraham trusts God and travels from Ur of the Chaldees to the land of Canaan:

The Lord had said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you…So Abram went, as the Lord had told him…

3. Once there, Abraham then must leave Canaan and stay for a time in Egypt, as told in Genesis 12:10-20:

Now there was a famine in the land, and Abram went down to Egypt to live there for a while because the famine was severe…

4. Rebekah leaves her homeland of Haran to be Isaac’s wife in Canaan in Genesis 24:

“The Lord, the God of heaven, who brought me out of my father’s household and my native land and who spoke to me and promised me on oath, saying, ‘To your offspring I will give this land’—he will send his angel before you so that you can get a wife for my son from there…”

5. Isaac, like his father, Abraham, commands Jacob not to marry a Canaanite woman, but to return to his family’s people for a wife (Genesis 28-29):

“…May God Almighty bless you and make you fruitful and increase your numbers until you become a community of peoples. May he give you and your descendants the blessing given to Abraham, so that you may take possession of the land where you now reside as a foreigner, the land God gave to Abraham…”

6. In Genesis 32-35, Jacob wrestles with God and His promises as he goes from Haran to Bethel:

Then Jacob prayed, “O God of my father Abraham, God of my father Isaac, Lord, you who said to me, ‘Go back to your country and your relatives, and I will make you prosper,’ I am unworthy of all the kindness and faithfulness you have shown your servant. I had only my staff when I crossed this Jordan, but now I have become two camps. Save me, I pray, from the hand of my brother Esau, for I am afraid he will come and attack me, and also the mothers with their children. But you have said, ‘I will surely make you prosper and will make your descendants like the sand of the sea, which cannot be counted.’”

Then God said to Jacob, “Go up to Bethel and settle there, and build an altar there to God,who appeared to you when you were fleeing from your brother Esau.”

7. Jacob’s son Joseph is sold by his brothers from Canaan to Egypt in Genesis 37:

…when the Midianite merchants came by, his brothers pulled Joseph up out of the cistern and sold him for twenty shekels of silver to the Ishmaelites, who took him to Egypt.

8. God puts Joseph in a position to aid his family when they flee the drought in Canaan to live in Egypt (Genesis 42-46):

Then ten of Joseph’s brothers went down to buy grain from Egypt.

So Israel set out with all that was his, and when he reached Beersheba, he offered sacrifices to the God of his father Isaac.

9. By Exodus 2:15, God’s people are enslaved in Egypt, and Moses flees from Egypt to Midian:

When Pharaoh heard of this, he tried to kill Moses, but Moses fled from Pharaoh and went to live in Midian, where he sat down by a well.

10. From Moses’ return as God’s mediator who leads the Israelites out of Egypt to Joshua’s leadership at Jericho, God leads his people gradually back from from Egypt to Canaan. Abraham’s line has come full circle, and God’s promises are never once forgotten.

11. Famine once again calls God’s people into exile in Ruth 1. This time, however, God calls Ruth (a Moabite) out of Moab to go back to Bethlehem with those returning there.

In the days when the judges ruled, there was a famine in the land. So a man from Bethlehem in Judah, together with his wife and two sons, went to live for a while in the country of Moab. The man’s name was Elimelek, his wife’s name was Naomi, and the names of his two sons were Mahlon and Kilion. They were Ephrathites from Bethlehem, Judah. And they went to Moab and lived there.

So Naomi returned from Moab accompanied by Ruth the Moabite, her daughter-in-law, arriving in Bethlehem as the barley harvest was beginning.

12. In the days when God’s people were looking for a king, God granted their wish by leading Saul out of Gibeah to Samuel in Ramah (1 Samuel 9):

…Now the day before Saul came, the Lord had revealed this to Samuel: 16 “About this time tomorrow I will send you a man from the land of Benjamin. Anoint him ruler over my people Israel; he will deliver them from the hand of the Philistines. I have looked on my people, for their cry has reached me.”

13. After God rejects Saul as king, Samuel is told to go to Bethlehem to anoint David. (1 Samuel 16):

“…I am sending you to Jesse of Bethlehem. I have chosen one of his sons to be king.”

14. When David is anointed king over Judah in 2 Samuel 2:1, the Lord names the town where he should go:

David asked, “Where shall I go?”

“To Hebron,” the Lord answered.

15. Word of the Lord continues to spread throughout the world in the days of King Solomon (1 Kings 10):

When the queen of Sheba heard about the fame of Solomon and his relationship to the Lord, she came to test Solomon with hard questions…

16. Rehoboam is also called to a journey to accept his mantle as king. He travels from Jerusalem to Shechem in 1 Kings 12:1:

17. Elijah, a prophet of the Lord, flees Jezebel—wife of Ahab and queen of Israel—and goes up to Mount Horeb where God reveals himself (1 Kings 19):

Elijah was afraid and ran for his life. When he came to Beersheba in Judah, he left his servant there, while he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness.

18. in 2 Kings 5, Naaman, commander of the army of the king of Aram, travels from Syria to Samaria to be healed by the God of Israel:

19. The captives of Judah, exiles in Babylon are allowed to return to Jerusalem when the Lord moves the heart of Cyrus king of Persia in Ezra 1:

“‘The Lord, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth and he has appointed me to build a temple for him at Jerusalem in Judah. Any of his people among you may go up to Jerusalem in Judah and build the temple of the Lord, the God of Israel, the God who is in Jerusalem, and may their God be with them…'”

20. Even the Romans were unwitting subjects to God’s will when Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world, sending Joseph to Bethlehem where Jesus was to be born (Luke 2:1-4):

So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David.

21. Like the queen of Sheba visiting Solomon, once again foreign kings are compelled to journey for news of the Hebrew God (Matthew 2:1-12):

After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”

22. Once the Great Commission has been given, Acts is the account of those earliest missionary journeys. God’s Word is to be spread to all nations and all peoples, and Philip follows this command by going to Samaria in Acts 8:5.

23. Saul to converted on the road to Damascus where he had traveled from Jerusalem to attack the Jesus movement in Acts 9:

As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?”

24. In Acts 11:19-26, Barnabas goes out from Jerusalem to plant a church in Antioch:

Now those who had been scattered by the persecution that broke out when Stephen was killed traveled as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus and Antioch, spreading the word only among Jews.

25. And finally, Paul goes himself to the heart of Jewish persecution in Rome, so that he may spread the Gospel there (Acts 21:16-28:31).

Some content taken from Willmington’s Guide to the Bible, by Harold L. Willmington. Copyright 2011. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. (Available for purchase at


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Putting the “Her” in “Hero” for Girls

See the books in the Bible Belles series in the Bible Gateway Store where you'll enjoy low prices every dayIn an effort to give girls aged 4-10 positive role models from the Bible, Erin and Brent Weidemann created the Bible Belles series (@BibleBelles). Erin’s life experiences as a five-time cancer survivor, wife, and mother inspired her to create a brand focused on inspiring girls and women of all ages to fulfill their destiny, redefine the world’s messages of beauty and worth, and promote positive, powerful female role models in Scripture and modern culture.

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The Bible Belles series uses five remarkable women from the Bible – Hannah (prayer), Esther (patience), Abigail (bravery), Ruth (loyalty), and Deborah (leadership) – to teach young girls how to feel confident about their worth, bodies, and purpose in today’s challenging world. Erin Weidemann authored the series, and the couple partnered with a Disney animator to illustrate the books.

[Read the Bible Gateway Blog post, Quiz: Do You Know These Women of the Bible?]

Erin Weidemann“Bible Belles has become more than a business,” said co-founder Erin Weidemann (@ErinWeidemann). “For us, as parents of a young girl, it’s personal. We’re particularly aware of the challenges girls face today, and it’s our continued prayer that these books will help young girls everywhere learn to see their real value and beauty in the Lord.”

The books are available in the Bible Gateway Store:

Bible Belles is partnering with World Vision to support its mission of helping children around the world. For every Deborah book purchased, Bible Belles and World Vision will donate a Bible Belles book to a girl living in an under-resourced community in the United States.

About Bible Belles
Bible Belles is a multimedia publishing company dedicated to changing girls’ lives through the female heroes of the Bible. The world has a lot to tell our kids about beauty. The world is wrong, but it is loud. The Bible Belles show our kids that real beauty makes a different kind of noise. For more information, visit

About World Vision
World Vision is a Christian humanitarian organization dedicated to working with children, families, and their communities worldwide to reach their full potential by tackling the causes of poverty and injustice. World Vision serves all people regardless of religion, race, ethnicity, or gender. For more information, visit

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How to Live The Bible — The Prospect of Transformation


This is the nineteenth lesson in author and pastor Mel Lawrenz’ How to Live the Bible series. If you know someone or a group who would like to follow along on this journey through Scripture, they can get more info and sign up to receive these essays via email here.

Just released: A Book of Prayers for Kids by Mel Lawrenz.

[For the Easter season: Knowing Him: Devotional Readings About the Cross and Resurrection by Mel Lawrenz]

Some of the most dramatic stories we tell in our books and movies and legends involve the transformation of a person into something entirely different. There is Beauty and the Beast, Dr. Jekel and Mr. Hyde, and endless science fiction stories of creatures that change shape or species. We love these stories, perhaps because we all know we need dramatic change.

How To Live the Bible Blurred People illustration

We get our word transformation from the Greek metamorphosis which means to change form. The writers of the New Testament use the word to describe the very best thing that can happen to a person: a change for the better. Not just a slight improvement or a change of attitude, but a true reshaping of a whole life: mind, heart, behavior, attitude, values, relationships, character. This is a work of the Holy Spirit, and it goes on for a lifetime. It is a qualitative change of life from the inside out; what the apostle Paul calls “the fruit of the Spirit” which includes “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.”

The idea of living the Bible holds this prospect: that God’s word, spoken into the core of our lives with power and repetition, is the way of transformation.

Some people don’t think they need God’s help to change. Just “turn over a new leaf” or dig deep and make some new resolutions. While we should respect the intent of those who want to make real changes, we should remember that true change, real transformation, can only occur when simple human willpower is overwhelmed by the power of God. We are up against the powerful deforming effects of sin and the considerable forces of evil.

No wonder we often quote Romans 12:2. “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed (metamorphoo) by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” Here we have a clear two-fold option. The world (“this age”) has a definite shape or pattern—a morphe. With no divine influence or intervention we will be shaped by the world, its values, behavior patterns, and mindset. There is no such thing as indeterminacy. Every person is shaped and influenced. We will “conform” unless we are “transformed.”

The alternative is to come under the transforming influence of God. To undergo transformation. The heart of spiritual transformation is the intentional, sustained re-patterning of a person’s life after the pattern set out by God when he created human beings in his image. God is the shaper. He formed the universe by his will and word, and he intends to re-shape people who have gotten misshapen by sin. Jesus proclaimed the life-transforming power of God every time he healed twisted limbs, made the blind see, multiplied fish and bread, and called Lazarus out of the tomb.

The “renewing of your mind” Paul talks about reminds us that God’s work is restorative. God is changing things back to the way they were meant to be in the first place. “Mind” is the core of our inner lives where our motives and values reside, and where beliefs are formed and decisions are made. The very worst human biases and malice and evil are at the core, and so it takes a perpetual work of God—at the core—that makes transformation possible.

Transformation is not a method, but there are things we can do to welcome and foster the work of God in reshaping us.

First, we should set aside any superficial clichés about changed lives. It is easy to use the words of transformation. Christian leaders especially are inclined to speak easily about “changing the world.” But humility is the order of the day. Any overconfidence in ourselves will undermine the prospect of transformation. Any pride about a few behaviors changed will set us up for a fall. The one thing Jesus would not tolerate was self-righteousness.

Second, we should commit to lifelong patterns of connection with God. Scripture readingKnowing Him: Devotional Readings About the Cross and Resurrection by Mel Lawrenz. Get it now.


[If you believe this series will be helpful, this is the perfect time to forward this to a friend, a group, or a congregation, and tell them they too may sign up for the weekly emails here]

Mel Lawrenz (@MelLawrenz) trains an international network of Christian leaders, ministry pioneers, and thought-leaders. He served as senior pastor of Elmbrook Church in Brookfield, Wisconsin, for ten years and now serves as Elmbrook’s minister at large. He has a PhD in the history of Christian thought and is on the adjunct faculty of Trinity International University. Mel is the author of 18 books, including How to Understand the Bible—A Simple Guide and Spiritual Influence: the Hidden Power Behind Leadership (Zondervan, 2012). See more of Mel’s writing at WordWay.

The Use and Misuse of the King James Bible: An Interview with Mark Ward

Mark WardThe King James Version (KJV) Bible has shaped the church, our worship, and the English language for over 400 years. But what should we do with it today?

Bible Gateway interviewed Mark Ward (@mlward) about his book, Authorized: The Use and Misuse of the King James Bible (Lexham Press, 2018).

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[Read the Bible Gateway Blog post, Celebrate James I’s Birthday by Reading the King James Bible]

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Where did the King James Version (KJV) of the Bible come from, and how many people read it today?

Mark Ward: The KJV is what it is today because of that first letter: “K.” Only in a day when a “King” ruled over church and state could one Bible translation come to rule them all. And even then it almost didn’t happen: the Geneva Bible (which King James I of England did not like because its notes questioned the divine right of kings) remained in use for some time after the KJV came out in 1611. The KJV translators themselves did not expect their work to become the standard for all English speakers—their excellent preface makes this clear. But that’s what happened.

English, like all languages, is a moving target. It’s changed a great deal since the KJV was released. So I was surprised a few years ago to find out from Mark Noll and the Pew Research Center that the KJV is still the most-read Bible translation in the US. Of all the Americans who read their Bibles today, 55% read the KJV. When I saw that, I knew I had to write Authorized: The Use and Misuse of the King James Bible. I wanted to help that 55% see how changes in English impact modern readers.

[Read the Bible Gateway Blog post, Original Translator’s Draft Provides Earliest Known Look at the King James Bible]

Your book offers examples of words such as halt and remove that meant one thing in 1611 and yet mean something different in 2018.

Mark Ward: Everybody who picks up a KJV knows there are “dead words” inside it—words we don’t use anymore. Besom, chambering, emerod, caul are words we know we don’t know; words we turn to the dictionary to define.

But halt and remove are what I and other linguists call “false friends:” words we don’t know we don’t know. I never hear these discussed as a separate category. But “How long halt ye between two opinions” (1 Kings 18:21) and “Remove not the ancient landmark” (Prov 22:28) simply don’t mean to us what they meant to the KJV translators. Today halt means stop, and remove means get rid of. In 1611 they had other senses not available today (read Authorized to find out which!). And your dictionary may not tell you what those senses were, because its job is to track words as they’re used currently, not as they were used 400–500 years ago.

I don’t blame anyone for the existence of “false friends” in the KJV. The KJV translators couldn’t predict the future of English, and we shouldn’t be expected to keep track of English’s intricate past. In other words, they didn’t make mistakes and we aren’t dummies. We just speak two different Englishes. There is obviously massive overlap between them, but every year they grow further apart. The KJV is like a rubber band being stretched between us and the Elizabethans. It’s held remarkably well for a long time, but the rubber is now more frayed than many KJV readers realize.

[Read the Bible Gateway Blog post, The King James Study Bible, Full Color Edition Features Scholarship of Conservative Scholars]

The KJV has remained popular through the centuries while translations before and after it have, for the most part, fallen out of everyday use. What are you saying in your book the church would lose if it stopped using the KJV?

Mark Ward: The first chapter of Authorized lists five things we’ll lose—that we are losing—as the KJV loses its place as the accepted, common standard English Bible translation. Certain intergenerational ties in the body of Christ will grow a bit weaker, “accidental” Scripture memory will be less common, and (paradoxically?) non-Christian trust in the Bible will fade in a specific way. What I mean is that from the outside, it may look like our many English translations are tools for different Christian groups to get the Bible to tell them what they want to hear. They aren’t—they just aren’t. But this is a case in which a rising tide can sink all boats; at least a little. A common standard carries significant benefits—benefits I don’t think we’ll ever get back.

[Read the Bible Gateway Blog post, In praise of the King James Bible]

What’s wrong with assigning a reading level to the KJV?

Mark Ward: When a computer looks at a book, what indeed can it see? The same thing it always sees—the only thing it can ever see: numbers. When you see a “readability score” applied to a given text, what you’re actually seeing is computing, not reading. Such scores are based on an assumption that is sometimes useful but not fundamentally true. That assumption is that shorter words and shorter sentences are easier to read than longer words and longer sentences. Flesch-Kincaid and other reading analyses don’t really know if Green Eggs and Ham is easier than The Gulag Archipelago; they just know Dr. Seuss’s words and sentences are shorter than Alexander Solzhenitsyn’s, and they assume therefore that the former is easier.

That assumption often works as a rough-and-ready measure on contemporary texts, but it falls apart quickly when applied to a much older text like the KJV. To a computer, the “dead” Elizabethan words caul and halt and the current word call look equally “easy” to read. But clearly they aren’t—because caul is a dead word, and halt is a false friend. The KJV also arranges words in unfamiliar syntax patterns and uses different spelling and punctuation conventions. But none of the available reading level analyses can see these things.

Authorized argues that if people say the KJV is hard to read, then it’s hard to read. People know better than their computers.

What emphasis did the KJV translators place on vernacular translations of the Bible?

Mark Ward: The KJV translators were direct heirs of the Protestant Reformation. They said very clearly in their preface that their goal—like that of William Tyndale, whose work they were essentially revising—was to put God’s Word into the tongue of the “very vulgar.” That meant the common people, the man on the street, the “all nations” of the Great Commission (Matt 28:18–20). Giving God’s words to those people in a way they could understand was their motivation.

When we hold too tightly to the way they stated things in the KJV, we actually violate their own stated principles. If you’ve never read the KJV preface, it’s a gold mine—but it’s now hard to read! I actually translated it here and drew lessons from it here. Everyone interested in English Bible translation can profit from their ideas; the most important of which was indeed that teaching people to observe everything Jesus commanded means putting the Bible into the vernaculars of the world.

Why do you say the question “which Bible translation is the best?” is the wrong question to ask?

Mark Ward: If there’s no holy grail, maybe the knights would do better to stop going on quests to find it.

If there’s no “best” English Bible translation, and there isn’t, then it’s particularly sad that so many of our own quests to find it end up with our fighting on Facebook with other knights who claim to have found it. These “word-fights” are “to no profit” (2 Tim 2:14).

Instead of looking for the “best” translation, I tell people to look for the most “useful” one for a given situation. If you’re reading the whole book of Isaiah quickly, go for a smoother translation like the NIV or HCSB. If you’re focusing very hard on studying two paragraphs in 1 Corinthians 7, go for a more “formal” translation like the NASB or ESV. If you’re teaching functionally illiterate people at a shelter, use a translation made for super-easy reading like the New International Reader’s Version (NIrV).

Reading and comparing multiple translations has helped me understand the Bible better so many times that I started to realize: even if I did find “the best” Bible translation, so what? I wouldn’t stop using all the other good ones in my Bible study.

What was your objective in writing this book?

Mark Ward: One of the endorsers of my book, a man I respect greatly, put it better than I could: “fostering more and better Bible reading.” That’s it. The 55% of English-speaking Christians who read the KJV don’t—can’t—know what they’re missing unless they check other translations. Many of them do. But some of them don’t, and I think they should—for their own good and that of others.

What is a favorite Bible passage of yours and why?

Mark Ward: I’ve pretty well dedicated my life to making biblical truth understandable, so Paul’s argument in 1 Corinthians 14 is especially precious to me. Repeatedly—seven times by my count—he makes the same basic argument: if you want to edify others, you need to use intelligible words.

I’ll quote the KJV: Except ye utter by the tongue words easy to be understood, how shall it be known what is spoken? for ye shall speak into the air (1 Cor 14:9).

[Read the Bible Gateway Blog post, The NIV Faithlife Study Bible: An Interview with John D. Barry]

What are your thoughts about Bible Gateway and the Bible Gateway App?

Mark Ward: You’re asking an employee of Faithlife, makers of Logos Bible Software—so of course I’ll say that Logos is best. =) But I’ve used Bible Gateway many times over the years and I’ll tell you what I really like: I like it that one of the top 1,000 sites on the internet—top 400 in the US, last I checked—is dedicated to helping people use multiple Bible translations to study the Bible. I say, more power to—and to the Bible students who use your site and apps. Vernacular translations of the Bible are never perfect, but they’re a precious gift; an embarrassment of riches God has given us. You’re helping to freely spread those Bible study riches and I’m grateful.

Bio: Mark Ward received his PhD in New Testament Interpretation from Bob Jones University in 2012. He now serves the church as a Logos Pro, writing weekly on Bible study for the Logos Talk Blog and training users in the use of Logos Bible Software. He is the author of Authorized: The Use and Misuse of the King James Bible and multiple high school Bible textbooks, including Biblical Worldview: Creation, Fall, Redemption. He blogs at

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Easter is On April Fool’s Day But the Resurrection is No Joke

Buy your copy of The Case for Miracles: A Journalist Investigates Evidence for the Supernatural in the Bible Gateway Store where you'll enjoy low prices every day

Easter is the celebration of Jesus’ resurrection. But did it really happen? Is the supernatural real? In his new book, The Case for Miracles: A Journalist Investigates Evidence for the Supernatural (Zondervan, 2018), Lee Strobel (@LeeStrobel), with his trademark investigative approach, examines whether New Testament miracles pass for historical facts; if near-death experiences offer a glimpse into the afterlife; whether paranormal activity has any credibility; and more.

[Sign up to receive Lee Strobel’s free email newsletter, Investigating Faith]

As a pastor or church leader reading this, the following 3-minute video is perfect to use in your church’s Easter service! It quickly summarizes the evidence for the resurrection of Jesus. Lee ties in the fact that Easter is on April Fool’s Day this year, but that the resurrection is no joke.

[Read the Bible Gateway Blog post, The Case for Christ: An Interview with Lee Strobel]

The Case for Miracles is published by HarperCollins Christian Publishing, Inc., the parent company of Bible Gateway.

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SIL International and Zondervan Academic Working Together to Aid Global Bible Translation Efforts

Zondervan Academic      Zondervan Academic

Zondervan Academic (@ZonderAcademic) is supporting SIL International® (@SILintl), a faith-based nonprofit organization committed to serving language communities worldwide, by providing to SIL some of the world’s top biblical resources to support efficient and accurate Bible translation work around the world.

[See the many Bible translations in multiple languages on Bible Gateway and on the Bible Gateway App]

SIL has developed Translator’s Workplace software platform so that those in a Bible translation role who are part of a private, managed group can access resources to aid their translation efforts. Translator’s Workplace acts like a library with unlimited loaning and loan periods. Zondervan Academic is providing a large library of its scholarly digital content without charge to users of SIL’s Translator’s Workplace.

[Read the Bible Gateway Blog post, Bible Translation Organizations]

Zondervan Academic and BibleMesh also are making available at a significant discount many Zondervan Academic Online Courses to SIL and the community of Bible translators and consultants it serves. The courses include Old Testament and New Testament Surveys and Basics of Biblical Greek, Hebrew, Ugaritic, Aramaic, and Syriac. Zondervan Academic Online Courses are adapted from award-winning Zondervan Academic textbooks, feature professionally filmed video lectures, and can be used by professors in the classroom, or by individual learners.

[Go deeper into the Bible with Bible Gateway online courses taught by leading scholars]

“One of our current initiatives is to foster greater understanding of biblical languages among translators and consultants,” says Paul O’Rear, SIL associate international translation coordinator. “We are grateful to Zondervan for their ministry-minded heart and support of Bible translation. Their books and online courses will be of tremendous value to translation consultants and consultants-in-training worldwide.”

“Our aim as a publisher is to support the academy and the church, and I am so pleased that we are able to bring these aims together in providing these resources to the worldwide church through the services of SIL International,” says Stan Gundry, SVP and publisher, Zondervan.

[See our blogpost, Four Ways to Celebrate Bible Translation Day]

Zondervan Academic titles provided to SIL include:

To learn more about SIL International and to support their translation efforts, visit

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Bible News Roundup – Week of March 11, 2018

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SIL International and Zondervan Academic Working Together to Aid Global Bible Translation Efforts
Bible Gateway Blog

Archaeologists Find Evidence Under Jonah’s Tomb of Biblical Assyrian King, Esarhaddon, Who Reigned 681—669 BC
Read about Esarhaddon in 2 Kings 19:37, Isaiah 37:38, and Ezra 4:2 on Bible Gateway
Read about Esarhaddon in Smith’s Bible Names Dictionary on Bible Gateway
Read the Bible Gateway Blog post, Latest Biblical Archaeology Research

South Sudan Catholic Diocese Of Torit and Summer Institute of Linguistics Launch First Bible in Didinga Language
Gurtong Trust

98-Year-Old Says Reading the Bible Changed His Life
UG Christian News

Bible Knowledge Makes Comeback in Sabah Malaysia Schools
FMT News

See other Bible News Roundup weekly posts

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Quiz: Do You Know These Women of the Bible?

Resources For and About Women of Faith

March is Women’s History Month, which includes International Women’s Day, to “celebrate the social, economic, cultural, and political achievement of women.” Consider the ways in which women shaped the history of the Bible and Christianity, and continue to lead and influence the faith today.

Let’s begin with the following fun quiz! Can you name these women in the Bible?

Many of the key figures of biblical history were women. Women of the Bible is a good place to start: it’s a free email devotional series that looks at a different woman from the Bible each week, summarizing their accomplishments, evaluating their successes and failures, and considering the lessons we can glean from their lives.

We’ve written detailed reflections on a number of these women, including:

If you’re interested less in historical figures and more in the challenges and opportunities facing women of faith today, quite a few of the free devotionals in our library are written by and for women. While you don’t need to be a woman to draw inspiration from them, they tend to focus on challenges and themes that are especially relevant to modern women of faith. They include:

These are just some places to start, whether you’re interested in the historical women of the Bible or in the ways that God calls women to lives of faith today. And there’s plenty in our devotional and study library that all believers, male and female, will find equally enlightening.

So today, take a few minutes to reflect on the role that women both historical and contemporary have played not only in the overall history of Christianity—but in your own life of faith.

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Read the Bible with the Jewish Eyes of Jesus: An Interview with Lois Tverberg

Lois TverbergWrinkles and grey hair in the mirror. Rain in the forecast. Gaining a clothing size. Modern Bible readers view all of these as negatives, but in the biblical world, just the opposite would have been true. Old age was an advantage when elders were chosen as leaders, and rain was an occasion for rejoicing in the parched Middle East. Beauty was associated with gaining weight because hunger was a common struggle. Cultural differences large and small separate modern readers from how the Bible “thinks.”

Bible Gateway interviewed Lois Tverberg (@loistverberg) about her book, Reading the Bible with Rabbi Jesus: How a Jewish Perspective Can Transform Your Understanding (Baker Books, 2018).

Buy your copy of Reading the Bible with Rabbi Jesus in the Bible Gateway Store where you'll enjoy low prices every day

How can cultural differences “get in the way” of how we read the Bible? What do you mean by understanding how the Bible “thinks?”

Lois Tverberg: My nephew grew up in the South and first encountered snow when he was about five years old. Puzzled, he asked, “What do you do with the snow when you have to mow the lawn?” He couldn’t imagine a reality where people didn’t mow their lawns year round, and assumed it was universal. In the same way, many of our problems with the Bible come from misunderstanding its cultural reality and projecting our own onto it instead.

Often we find that the gap separating us from our Bibles not so much one of time but of culture. We are Gentiles living in a modern, Western, industrial society. The authors were largely Jews who lived in a traditional Eastern, agrarian society. In order to bridge these gaps, we need to grasp how the Bible “thinks”—the basic background assumptions that biblical peoples had about life. Often these were very different than ours today.

What are some of the “big picture ideas” that we need to know about?

Lois Tverberg: Our culture is all about the individual. The biblical world focused on the group.

Our culture is skeptical about the existence of God. The ancient world assumed that many gods existed. Their key question was, “Which god is the greatest?”

Our culture organizes itself around business and industry. The biblical world organized itself around family and tribe.

Our culture is literate and expects people to look things up in books. The ancient world emphasized memory instead. Religious teachers often quoted from Scripture and expected listeners to recognize their references. Often they made important points through references and even subtle allusions to their Bibles.

You mention the acronym, “WEIRD,” that psychologists coined for the ways that American culture is unusual compared to the rest of the world. What does it stand for and how do you think this comes into play in reading the Bible?

Lois Tverberg: The acronym “WEIRD” stands for “Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich, Democratic.” All these traits tend to characterize Europeans and especially Americans.

We live in an educated, Western culture that values scientific thought above all else. We’re industrialized, so that our world does not revolve around family and clan, but around work and business. We’re relatively rich, so that many basic worries are simply not on our radar screens. We live in a democracy and dislike all hierarchy and authority.

In Reading the Bible with Rabbi Jesus I point out that these same characteristics tend to set us apart culturally from the Bible, so that major biblical themes—like farming and kings—simply do not resonate. I explore these and other cultural difficulties that modern readers (especially Americans) have with the Bible.

You write how we read about Daniel’s fast as if God was helping him lose weight, when his diet actually made him fat. Please explain.

Lois Tverberg: Dozens of Christian dieting books are based on the story in Daniel 1:1-16 where he and his friends eat vegetables rather than meat from the royal table. We assume they’re trying to lose weight in order to get in shape. If you look closely, though, the text says Daniel and his friends became “fatter in flesh” than those who were eating from the king’s banquet (Daniel 1:15, ESV).

Since we battle with being overweight, we pick up our Bibles looking for weight-loss plans. In contrast, the ancient world struggled against hunger, and wanted to gain weight to be in top physical condition. In the story, the surprise was that God miraculously rewarded Daniel for his avoidance of meat offered to idols by helping them gain weight, rather than lose it. It’s a minor point, but it shows how our cultural expectations cause us to read the Bible upside down and backwards of its original intent.

Buy your copy of Reading the Bible with Rabbi Jesus in the Bible Gateway Store where you'll enjoy low prices every day

The chapter titled “Greek Brain, Hebrew Brain” discusses the difference between Western vs. Eastern thought. How does this influence how we read the Bible?

Lois Tverberg: Western thinking is very analytical, theoretical and focused on abstract concepts. It began in Greece in the 5th century AD and has deeply affected European-based cultures. We see it as the essence of mental sophistication and have a hard time imagining anyone could think any other way.

Much of the Bible, however, communicates in a more ancient way. It speaks in concrete images and parables rather than abstract concepts and argumentation. Modern readers hardly realize that brilliant ideas can be expressed this way too.

What is significant about the Bible’s many lists of people’s names?

Lois Tverberg: In the ancient world, family was central. The growth and relationships of a family were the core of how societies functioned. You have to grasp how the Bible “thinks” in terms of family as the center of reality in order to follow its most basic themes.

The main theme of the biblical story is God’s promise to Abraham to give him a great family, and the covenant that God makes with that family, Israel. Every time genealogies are listed it shows how God is fulfilling his promise. Even in the New Testament, whether or not believers in Christ needed to be “sons of Abraham” (Torah-observant Jews, who lived by the family covenant) was a major issue.

How does our perspective change if we read the Bible as a “we” instead of merely as an individual?

Lois Tverberg: Americans are very individualistic, and we tend to focus on the Bible as a series of personal encounters between individuals and God. We assume the ultimate audience for Bible reading is “me.” We miss how often the Scriptures focus on the group rather than the individual. When Jesus preaches, he’s almost always addressing a crowd.

Many ideas make more sense when we’re aware of the Bible’s emphasis on community. This is true even with the gospel. People often talk about Jesus as “my personal savior” and struggle to find an individual gospel in their Bibles. That’s because the biblical imagery is actually about Christ saving a group of people. Jesus is the “Christ,” God’s anointed king, who has come to redeem a people to be his kingdom (See Revelation 5:9-10). When we “accept Christ,” we’re submitting to his kingship and joining his people. The imagery of a “kingdom” is inherently plural, so it passes us right on by.

How has studying the Jewishness of Jesus impacted your faith in Christ?

Lois Tverberg: I was raised in a devout Christian home. A little over 20 years ago I signed up for a church seminar on ancient Israel and the Jewish setting of the Bible, and Bible stories that were foggy and confusing became clear and deeply relevant to my life. I started hearing the words of Scripture through the ears of its ancient listeners, and it made all the difference in the world. Sayings of Jesus that were divorced of their context sounded like vague platitudes, but situated within the larger first-century conversation, their true brilliance became apparent.

What is one of the most important insights you’ve learned in studying the Jewish background of Christianity?

Lois Tverberg: The most important thing I’ve learned is that some of Jesus’ boldest claims to being the Messiah, the Christ who God sent as Savior, were delivered in a very subtle Jewish way. Skeptical scholars have said that Jesus was just a wandering guru; a wise man whose followers exalted to a divine status. But Jesus’ Jewish habit of peppering his words with “hints” to his Scriptures allowed him to make statements that shocked his original audience, but float past modern readers.

What are your thoughts about Bible Gateway and the Bible Gateway App?

Lois Tverberg: The Bible Gateway website has been a key resource for my writing about Bible translation. I often talk about Hebrew words, which are broad and multifaceted and part of interesting wordplays. One way to explore them is to compare various passages and translations. I wrote an ebook called 5 Hebrew Words that Every Christian Should Know that links each verse reference to three translations on the Bible Gateway website. Because of the website’s functionality, readers are allowed to study the true breadth of each Hebrew word.

Bio: Lois Tverberg is the author of Reading the Bible with Rabbi Jesus, Sitting at the Feet of Rabbi Jesus, and Walking in the Dust of Rabbi Jesus, and has been speaking and writing about the Jewish background of Christianity for the past 20 years. Her passion is to translate the Bible’s ancient setting into fresh insights that deepen and strengthen Christian faith. She is cofounder of the En-Gedi Resource Center, an educational ministry with a goal of deepening Christian understanding of the Bible in its original context. A former professor, Tverberg lives in Holland, Michigan, and speaks at churches, conferences, and retreats. Learn more at

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